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In training, law enforcement officers follow a strict shoot-to-kill protocol. But on the field, not every situation calls for a lethal dose of lead. In most cases, officers simply want to stop an assailant in his or her tracks.

Right now, there are two options to get these results. One could use a bean bag round with a 12-gauge or clip on a flashy attachment called The Alternative, which turns a sidearm into a clown gun. The latter could change the way police disarm criminals and prevent innocent people from getting killed.

A Safety for the Safety

The orange contraption that’s causing waves in the law enforcement sector is basically an airbag for a bullet. Alternative Ballistics, a group that specializes in firearms technology, created the life-saving device. It works by slowing down a single bullet to speeds that can subdue an attacker but not necessarily cause severe internal injuries. Officers using the clip only have one chance to hit their target. After the non-lethal shot is deployed, the attachment snaps off, fully exposing the barrel of the weapon.

The Tiny Ball of Hope

The hollow sphere acts as a stopper for the bullet and spreads the point of impact when it hits the target, which decreases the chances of piercing the skin. However, this does not mean that the criminal will simply walk away unscathed from the encounter. Getting hit with the makeshift clown gun does hurt and can cause heavy bruising. If fired at the head or groin, the shot could cause serious harm – injuries that may require immediate medical attention.

“When it hits the assailant or the suspect, it generally knocks them to the ground,” said Bert Rhine, director of operations with Alternative Ballistics. “Our human effect study has shown there’s less than a two per cent chance of penetration.”

When the device is on the muzzle, police can still use other accessories such as scopes, flashlights and lasers (except with silencers). The shooter’s line of sight remains unobstructed.

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Relearning Traditional Protocol

Naturally, The Alternative isn’t designed for close-range combat. Doing so dramatically increases the possibility of inflicting traumatic damage to the target. Because of this, Christian Ellis, CEO of Alternative Ballistics, suggests the accessory only be used when an officer has three seconds to diffuse a hostile situation. This ensures that the criminal is within a manageable distance to receive the blow, while giving the shooter enough time to clip the attachment on the weapon.

Would an officer really use a less lethal option to take down an attacker who is running vigilantly with a knife? I’m not sure about that. Authorities who feel that their own lives are at stake would be compelled to use as much force as possible in a controversial kill-or-be-killed situation. But for aggressive rioters and criminals making empty threats with a weapon, this could actually work. Especially in today’s tumultuous climate, with frequent, highly publicized police shooting deaths of victims who were unarmed, The Alternative could very well be a life-saver and put a stop to these tragic occurrences.

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